Messages for Graduates of March 2020
- Yoshiaki Terumichi, President of Sophia University
- Tsutomu Sakuma, S.J., Chancellor of Sophia School Corporation
- Koichi Togawa, President of Sophia University Alumni Association
President of Sophia University
Congratulations on your graduation. I would also like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to parents and others who have supported the students who are graduating from Sophia University today.
Please allow me to begin by expressing my condolences to those in Japan and overseas who have passed away, falling victim to the coronavirus, as well as my sympathies to those who are struggling with the virus. I regret that I cannot deliver my message in person, but we had no choice but to cancel the ceremony, given the magnitude and speed of the impact the coronavirus has had on society. I thank you for your understanding of our decision.
Graduates, you will leave Sophia University this March to move on to your next stage full of new challenges. How do feel about your achievements and experiences at Sophia? Please take this opportunity to look back on the time you spent here, from the Entrance Ceremony up to today, to not only confirm the knowledge and skills that you have acquired but also to understand their significance.
The coronavirus has brought great confusion to society. The globalization and digitalization of society has also imposed various social transformations. We are entering an era when AI derives different decisions from Big Data. What challenges is society, the stage that you are about to go up on, faced with? As you celebrate this milestone, please seek your own answer. Living in times when AI technologies are introduced in a very short time, making it very difficult for us to actually feel the drastic change occurring in the global environment and envision the future international order, what is human society aiming to succeed in? What is society failing at?
History also tells us that while human society has undergone remarkable evolution, it has also experienced failure after failure. There are many examples where what we once believed were social developments currently ring warning bells. Environmental issues are a prime example. The emergence of automobiles gave humans the ability to travel over land at speeds exceeding their physical ability. Airplanes allowed humans who did not know how to fly to achieve intercontinental mobility at high speeds. Much of our social infrastructure has been built by converting fossil fuels into tremendous amounts of energy. They have been designed relying on this technology. However, today, we are challenged with the issue of controlling carbon dioxide emissions, which are a cause of global warming. The same can be said about our social systems, which have been structured with wisdom. Our social security system is lost in a blind alley, social disparities have become evident, and from a global perspective, we are challenged with endless poverty and educational issues. It is clear that the social system that we depend on has not necessarily been successful. The goal of achieving a sophisticated human society is turning into a story of failure in only a short period of around one hundred years, which is equivalent to just one generation for humans. In other words, as society made advancements, we pursued high performance, high efficiency and convenience and achieved a certain level of success, but at the same time made great sacrifices in just one generation.
Now I return to my question: what is society challenged with today? In our search for the path that we should follow, we are finding it more and more difficult to secure a successful experience that we can hold on to. What are we failing at? I feel a strong need for us to ask ourselves this question now.
Amid such social circumstances, I expect you will fearlessly lead the world as Sophians. We are about to take on new challenges exploring humans with a new perspective, questioning society and building a new high-quality society. In these times, please keep in your heart the educational spirit of Sophia University, "Men and Women for Others, with Others." When Pope Francis visited Sophia University last November, His Holiness told us that "the Christian and humanistic tradition of Sophia University is fully consonant with yet another of the Preferences that I mentioned, namely that of walking with the poor and the outcasts of our world." He also communicated to you that he was "counting on you to share in the mission of seeking, finding and spreading divine Wisdom, and thus offering joy and hope to present-day society." Please offer your excellence to others, to society, and to the vulnerable, in particular. The fundamental spirit and actions of each one of you will lead society in the right direction. You represent the vision of leaders that the world is waiting for today.
Our Graduation Ceremony had to be cancelled due to the impact of the coronavirus, and I also had to touch upon the challenges faced by human society in my address. I hope that one day in the near future we will be able to look back upon my message to have been "overly depressive." It is in your hands. I will close my remarks with my sincere wishes for your great success and advancements. Congratulations.
President, Sophia University
March 24, 2020
Tsutomu Sakuma, S.J.
Chancellor of Sophia School Corporation
Before I begin, permit me to convey my sincere good wishes to all of you who are graduating today. These wishes of mine go out not just to yourselves, but also to your parents, family, and friends. I am sure this graduation is an awe-inspiring occasion for all of you, who have provided your sons and daughters all the material and spiritual backing as well as the prayers they needed, for their success. I take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude to all of you, for your kindly support and cooperation extended to our university.
For you who are graduating, this day marks an end to what you learned and experienced at Sophia. It is a period for you to gaze back with love and gratitude upon the past, envision what awaits you in the future, ponder over your life that is to come, and await with eagerness and zeal the new world and novel experiences that lie ahead for you. Days like these, days replete with gratitude and hope are not encountered often, and in this current year in particular, what is tragic is the fact that on account of the spread of the unfortunate corona virus, we have been unable to share a meaningful time together on this event of your graduation. All the same though, by way of this message of mine, I would like to convey to you the hearty good wishes of all the faculty and staff of Sophia University.
There was an ancient Greek philosopher, who on a certain occasion while speaking about the human eye, declared that the physical eye lay in front of the head, but the eye of reason lay at the back. What he referred to were acts of reason or human behavior, namely comprehending what one observes, and performing actions based on judgement. In other words, human beings are good at looking back upon the past and grasping various issues, but the future for them is forever unforeseen, and is something beyond the control of reason.
This insight of ancient Greek philosophy that regarded the eye of reason as located at the back of the head, is also to be found in ancient Oriental philosophy. In palaces of the orient there were prophets, who were officially entrusted with the task of conveying messages received from the deities to kings, and these messages at times included prophecies concerning the future. It is obvious that the desire on our part to control the future is what constitutes the motivating force of science and technology, which have their origins in the discovery and use of natural laws through the observation of nature. Prophets also appear in the Bible, which was also compiled in the ancient orient, and here too they were assigned the vital task of conveying to the people the messages of God. However, the messages conveyed by prophets were not absolute, and they featured within fixed frameworks. This is the say, the author of the Book of Deuteronomy instituted a criterion to determine whether the prophets in question were genuine or not. Prophecies vowing success in the future and safety from danger were to be viewed with caution, and a prophet was to be approved as such only after his forecasts had been proven true.
For us, a scientific line would be to face the future by judging for ourselves whether something was right or wrong, without awaiting the results of technical investigation. One might feel that prophecies are meaningless if we had to wait in order to verify their results technically, but the fact is that this approach would serve to warn people of the possible pitfalls lying ahead of them. Kings and people of the past hailed the words of prophets when they foretold something pleasant using the name of God, but the Bible informs us that there were also false prophets. These were fanatics who misled kings and goaded them into making wrong political choices, consequently bringing about their own ruin and the ruin of their kingdoms. Such prophets were not scrutinized to see if they were true or not. It was bitter incidents like these that finally urged people to opt for a mindset of humility, whereby they learned to check the future cautiously rather than control it, as the ancient Greek philosophers had directed them to do.
Today, in view of the happy event of your graduation, how do you envision your future? All of you I am sure have your personal goals, aims, or values you seek to pursue and achieve. For some of you such priorities perhaps are clear, while for others they are perhaps clouded. What you need to bear in mind is that the initial step you take is vital, as this first step is bound to exert a major impact on the other steps that follow. Also, be sure to ponder carefully over the goal you have in mind. Is it something worthwhile? Is it something worth pursuing? What are you trying to achieve? How and with whom do you plan on attaining it? All these are critical issues to be borne in mind, but what is indeed most crucial is your motive. What is it that motivates you into traversing your chosen path? Goals at times may appear sensible and worthy, yet the agent is always the human person, and humans as we know are in danger of being driven by egocentric desires for control, or egos permeated by self-esteem. If such be the case, reason gets distorted into a self-defense weapon, and unleashes an insanity that is destructive to nature.
These are lessons we need to learn, having lived in a world that has faced Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. During his visit to Japan last November, His Holiness Pope Francis, in messages delivered to people, stressed the fact that genuine human beings were "humble and rational," that is to say, "rational human beings who have been freed from twisted self-centeredness." With the expectation that Sophia and its graduates would live in an ambience of such wisdom, His Holiness declared, "No student of your university should graduate without having learned how to choose, responsibly and freely, what he or she knows in conscience is best." It takes time to know what is best, and to rid ourselves of distortions and prejudice. The future that awaits you is a journey oriented to discovering answers to these questions. Do bear in mind the fact that commencements are most vital. On your Graduation Day, marking the start of your journey into a new world, please reflect carefully on what you are about to pursue, and why you intend pursuing it.
"Having learned how to choose, responsibly and freely, what he or she knows in conscience is best," all of you I am sure will indeed create a better world for all mankind. I wish to end my greeting by expecting the best of all of you.
Tsutomu Sakuma, S.J.
Chancellor, Sophia School Corporation
March 24, 2020
President of Sophia University Alumni Association
Congratulations on your graduation. I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to you for successfully acquiring your diplomas after many years of effort. Congratulations, also to families and friends who have shared the joy of this long awaited moment.
Graduation marks the end of your student life full of bittersweet memories and the beginning of a new journey. Many of you may already be envisioning your new social life with both expectation and anxiety, with no time to appreciate the joy of graduation.
You will find yourself in a global society that changes dramatically year after year. Welcoming the 5G Revolution, our social lives, as well as global industry, will change significantly as a result of further developments in IoT, AI and robotic technologies. We are shifting to times that were unimaginable half a century ago, when I graduated from Sophia. This change will continue at high speed, with new technologies becoming commercialized in the next five or ten years, therefore greatly changing not only industry but the way you work.
Even in such times, "Sophia – bringing the world together" and "Men and Women for others, with others," the founding spirit and educational philosophy that our education has been based on, will continue to live eternally. They will always allow us stop to think when we are overwhelmed by the times and obsessed with immediate profits.
The paths that each of you have chosen to pursue in society will not always be flat and you will encounter not only exciting and happy events but unforeseen hardships, paradoxes and matters that you cannot agree with. Instead of just compromising, you should always maintain your sense of purpose and individuality and take on all such challenges. I, myself, have lived in the global business world, and I have always recalled the educational philosophy and founding spirit of Sophia University when I experienced a setback or was going through rough times.
Embracing almost 140,000 alumni worldwide, Sophia-kai (Sophia Almuni Association) bonds alumni together and connects them with Sophia. We have a total of 309 organizations, including 65 overseas organizations, 76 local organizations in Japan, 17 faculty and department-based organizations and 151 hobby, industry-specific organizations for recreational activities and individual companies. Together with these organizations, other alumni groups promote social interaction and contribute to the university through vertical and horizontal networks. The total number of our alumni is not as large as that of other universities, but having learned under the same educational spirit we share a strong bond that allows us to understand each other as Sophians. Connecting with alumni will allow you some leeway in your daily life or work. This year, we have decided on the slogan, "Connect, expand, and deepen Sophian ties," with a view to our future. I invite you to actively join the Sophian network.
In conclusion, I would like to talk about His Holiness Pope Francis, who visited Japan last November. He communicated inspiring messages for peace in Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and Tokyo and also visited our university. It was an joyful event unique to Sophia.
I would like to share a very special experience in relation to the Pope. In 2013, I joined a tour hosted by Sophia University to discover the roots of Sophia University in commemoration of its centennial anniversary. On the day of the Papal Conclave, I was standing in St. Peter's Square in Vatican City with the Chancellor, a group of faculty and staff members and other alumni. We had visited the square several times that day hoping to witness white smoke emanating from the chimney of Sistine Chapel. I remember learning the good news that white smoke rose from the chimney at dinner on the day before we would depart from Rome. I was truly moved to learn that Pope Francis had been elected the New Pope.
It was only by chance that we had prayed at the parish in Assisi, the sacred convent of St. Francis, that a Pope that the times are in need of would be chosen. We had not imagined that Cardinal Bergoglio, born in Argentina and a priest of the Society of Jesus, the founder of Sophia University, would be elected as the new Pope and take the name Francis. I still remember clearly the excitement we shared. I was deeply inspired by Pope Francis' passionate message that "this university should be a center not only of intellectual formation, but also a place where a better society and a more hope-filled future can take shape" and of "walking with the poor and the outcasts of our world." I hope that you will all walk your ways with confidence and success, sometimes remembering the spirit of "Men and Women for Others, with Others" along with the words delivered by Pope Francis.
Promising that each of you will one day feel truly proud that you are an alumni of Sophia University, I will close my words of congratulations as the President of Sophia-kai.
Please be reminded that the Sophian's Club, on the sixth floor of Sophia Tower (Building No. 6), is open to all alumni at all times.
President, Sophia University Alumni Association
March 24, 2020